A Celebrated Restaurateur Shares His 5 Service No-No’s


Danny Meyer is a restaurateur’s restaurateur. As the founder of both high-end eateries like Grammercy Tavern and the affordable Shake Shack chain of burger joints, he’s one of the country’s most successful and acclaimed food purveyors. So he knows a thing or two about service.

Meyer has also been on the leading edge of the burgeoning movement to end the entrenched practice of tipping restaurant workers, instead raising the wages of his restaurants’ waitstaff and back-of-house workers and increasing the prices of menu items accordingly.

It was in the context of a recent New York Times article on his no-tipping initiatives that Meyer, in an aside, mentioned his “Five Least-Favorite Service-isms”:

  1. How is everything?
  2. Are you still working on that?
  3. No problem.
  4. Are we enjoying…?
  5. I have a little gift from Chef.

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Far be it from me to quibble with someone with Meyer’s credentials, but quibble I will.

How is everything?

Of Meyer’s five no-no’s, this is the one I find most perplexing. Certainly, a constant barrage of such queries can be irksome. But the occasional check-in reassures me that I haven’t been forgotten. It’s a matter of timing and attitude.

Are you still working on that?

This is a toughie. On the one hand, depending on the context, it can feel pushy, a pseudo-polite way of hurrying me through the meal so my table can be turned over to the next wave of diners. On the other hand, it can be a welcome reality check: Am I finished or just taking a moment before resuming eating?

No problem.

Whether in a business transaction or elsewhere, “no problem” is a problem. Telling me that doing your job isn’t a problem tells me that doing your job is a problem. It’s a phrase best banished from any and all discourse.

Are we enjoying…?

Patronizing, to be sure.

I have a little gift from Chef.

It’s not clear whether Meyer is objecting to the gift or to its presentation. I’d file this one under not looking a gift horse in the mouth. A little something extra, even if ineptly presented, is better than nothing.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your pet service peeve?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim Winship is Editor-at-Large.


  1. My pet peeve is servers who clear plates before everyone at the table has finished that particular course. The slower eaters feel hurried.

    I don’t like “still working on that?” because I don’t “work” on my food — I enjoy it!

  2. Completely agree with Danny Meyer. I have come to the restaurant to eat and to socialise with my partner / friends. What I want from the restaurant staff is great food and wine, enjoyable ambiance and service that is magically there when I want it but invisible the rest of the time. This surely is one of the hallmarks of a great restaurant. If I want to make a comment (praise or criticism) then I will do so but I don’t want the waiter to solicit my opinion. I’ll tell him/ her if I want to. The point about the ‘gift from chef’ is the insincerity of this and other similar scripted platitudes.

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